The Leadership Question

By August 27, 2015 No Comments

In today’s society we confuse celebrity for leadership.  If you asked most people if they wanted to be a leader, they would say “yes” but in fact they are envisioning celebrity status.

Leaders look much different than celebrities.  In fact, often they fail to win the popular vote.  Do you want to be a leader?  Answer these two questions to define if you really do:

1. What am I willing to take responsibility for?

If you are one who abdicates responsibility you are not willing to lead.  Leaders take responsibility for things, for themselves, for others.  They carry burdens, make tough decisions and accept downside risk for the benefit of others.

2. What am I willing to endure?

There is glamour in leadership, but it is very little.  Most of leadership is enduring challenging circumstances, one right after another.

For those who own and operate a business or lead an organization they know what I’m talking about.  They fix the issues and shovel the manure daily.  It’s a constant revolving door of product quality issues, cash flow issues, employee issues, warrenty issues, regulatory issues, public perception issues, and so on.

Celebrities are not Heros, true leaders are.  Leaders have a nearly superhuman ingredient called courage.  As Nassim Taleb wrote in Antifragile:

“The main difference between us and them is the disappearance of a sense of heroism; a shift away from a certain respect-and power-to those who take downside risk for others.  For heroism is the exact inverse of the agency problem (celebrity profile): someone elects to bear their disadvantage, (risks his own life, or harm to himself, or in the milder forms, accepts to deprive himself of some benefits) for the sake of others.”

If you want to lead, you must accept that you will be required to endure hardship.  The greater the leader, the deeper the hardship.  Think of Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandella, Henry Ford, Dale Carnegie, John Wesley, and certainly Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the crucifixion.

So how did you do on the leadership test?  Others cannot confirm whether you are a leader or not, only you have the ability to answer the leadership questions.  What are you willing to take responsibility for?  What are you willing to endure?